Michael L. Roach
Opening Throughout of the Great Western Railway
It was 180 years ago today on Wednesday 30 June 1841 that the final length of the GWR was completed and opened for business meaning that trains could now travel the whole way from Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads. The Act of Parliament had been passed in 1835 and the first length, from Paddington to Maidenhead, had opened in 1838 and the rest followed in stages. This is the contemporary report that appeared in the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette of 8 July 1841.
“On Wednesday (i.e.30 June 1841) this magnificent Railway was opened throughout between London and Bristol, 120 miles. It is already known that from Bristol to Bridgewater (sic) on the Exeter line, is open, and has been so for some weeks. The Great Western Railway would have been open long since but for the tunnel through Box Hill (six miles from Bath), which is nearly three miles in length, principally through stone. The difficulties and danger of forming this monster tunnel was looked upon as so great that for some time no one could be found to undertake the work, and it was at one period intended to carry the Railway round the hill. Now, after very great difficulties and impediments, the tunnel has been completed, through the perseverance and skill of its undertakers, and it will remain a wonderful monument of the powers of human intellect and industry.
Between Bristol and Bath alone, a distance of about twelve miles, there are six tunnels, some of them of great length. The summit level of the whole line is at Swindon, 76 miles from London, and is 253 feet above the depot at Paddington, and 275 feet above the terminus at Bristol. In February 1836 the works were commenced, the original estimate of which was £2.5M, but the actual outlay has already been more than double that amount – upwards of £5M. This will afford some small notion of the magnitude of this great undertaking. The distance from London to Bridgewater is to be achieved in 5½ hours on this Railway, and persons will be able to travel from London to Bristol in about 4 hours – 120 miles in 4 hours !”
Isambard Kingdom Brunel was appointed Engineer to the GWR in 1835 when he was just 29 years old. He surveyed the chosen route via Didcot and Swindon himself with help from assistants. It was far and away Brunel's largest civil engineering scheme to date and the line remains substantially as built, and one of Brunel's enduring legacies. He went on to engineer many more railways before his death in 1859 at the age of 53.
MLR/ 14 February 2021
Keith Turley and Neville King
Exminster up bracket signal removal
I enclose a few pictures of the removal of the up bracket signal the day after closure of the box. It was pulled out of the ground by the crane,then pulled down by the gang with ropes!
I followed the signal removal train from City Basin to Dawlish Warren on Saturday 15 November, the line was shut for the weekend. The last up train signalled under semaphores was the Penzance to Paddington postals with 50026. I saw this pass at 23.22 at Dawlish Warren the previous night (Friday 14 November)
Regarding Chard junction a number of trains were booked to stop for passing other trains. As there was no central door locking, only officious staff would stop you getting off for a photo.
Things were far more relaxed then, no CCTV or so many security jobsworths around. Staff just turned a blind eye and said 'I didn't see you!'
Hope this is of interest
all the best